The SCCA Trans Am sequence achieved iconic standing within the late Nineteen Sixties and early ’70s. On this episode of “Jay Leno’s Storage,” Jay Leno, NASCAR commentator Mike Pleasure, and historic racer Ken Epsman take a look at a number of the automobiles that made that period of Trans Am racing so particular. We be taught fairly a bit in regards to the historical past of Trans Am racing alongside the way in which.
Making an attempt to develop past newbie racing with a professional sequence, the SCCA launched Trans Am in 1966. The sequence initially featured modified manufacturing automobiles in two courses: these with engines displacing lower than 2.0 liters, and people with engines bigger than 2.0 liters however capped at 5.0 liters or 305 cubic inches.
The latter created a gap for Ford, Common Motors, Chrysler, and AMC to discipline their pony automobiles, which have been simply hitting the market on the time. The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth ‘Cuda, and AMC Javelin all raced within the Trans Am sequence with manufacturing unit assist throughout this golden age, which continued till 1972. After that, modifications to the foundations moved Trans Am from its production-based formulation.
1971 AMC Javelin Trans Am race automobile on Jay Leno’s Storage
Lacking from that checklist is the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, which was named after the sequence, however was unable to compete as a result of its engine exceeded the 5.0-liter most displacement set by the foundations. Firebirds did race within the Trans Am, albeit with much less constant manufacturing unit assist than the Camaros, and GM paid the SCCA a $5 payment for every Firebird Trans Am street automobile offered. For a time, that was the SCCA’s greatest supply of earnings, Pleasure notes within the video.
What made Trans Am race automobiles stand out was their similarity to street automobiles. The unique guidelines required inventory physique shells and powertrains, which made the racing fascinating and spawned basic homologation specials just like the Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. These automobiles have been raced by well-known drivers corresponding to Dan Gurney and Mark Donohue, making the Trans Am sequence a much bigger deal in its day than NASCAR, which was nonetheless principally widespread solely within the South, Pleasure says.
The principles pressured some fascinating workarounds, corresponding to the huge oil sump on the Ford Mustang proven right here (as a result of dry sumps have been unlawful), or the usage of the bottom entrance fascia on the 1970 Camaro racer slightly than the fancier Rally Sport model to avoid wasting weight. Not all the things was inventory—the Camaro employed a Chevy Impala rear axle to increase its observe width—however the automobiles did no less than look that means.
At a time when “win on Sunday, promote on Monday” was nonetheless a dependable technique, this made Trans Am an vital advertising and marketing software for automakers. That was notably true for AMC, which partnered first with Kaplan Engineering, then Penske Racing, and eventually the Roy Woods group as an all-in effort to advertise its Javelin as an alternative choice to the Detroit Three pony automobiles. The trouble netted titles in 1971 and 1972, giving AMC and the Javelin a quick second of glory.
The video ends like most of Leno’s video, with a drive in one of many automobiles. On this case, it is the No. 89 1966 Ford Mustang raced initially by Jim Whelan. It is a deal with to listen to the 289 with GT40 heads in motion on the road.
The Trans Am sequence nonetheless exists immediately, however the race automobiles haven’t got a lot in widespread with street automobiles, and the sequence has been overshadowed within the U.S. by the likes of NASCAR, System 1, IndyCar, and IMSA racing. But the automobiles from that 1966-1972 period are nonetheless iconic.